Quick Thoughts: Transactions

Now that the transactional stampede has slowed down, let’s pause to peek through some of what happened…

Nets trade Mikal Bridges to the Knicks for picks and salary slots to be determined

Nets trade the picks they own from the Suns to the Rockets for the remainder of the picks the Nets gave the Rockets in the 2020 James Harden deal

From the Nets perspective, these are good deals.  The choice was to pair Bridges with whatever star-ish level play they could get (Trae Young, Brandon Ingram, DeMar Derozan) and compete for the low-end playoff outcome while the picks Houston held ran off.  Evidently, Brooklyn must’ve told Houston that, unless the picks were returned, the Nets’ plan was sustained mediocrity.  This apparently convinced Houston that the Rockets would be better holding the high variance future Phoenix picks, rather than collecting Brooklyn’s middling picks the next few years.

As for Bridges, he had a real down year posting a career low in BPM (-0.4) and the eye test reflected his defense had slipped.  Bridges is turning 28 and it’s clear he’s stretched as a lead star and is a much better fit in an ensemble cast.  For the Knicks, the question was whether they should’ve spent the capital they had on Bridges or waited for a bigger fish that might become available.

This is a tough call.  We never know if a big star might become available and New York is a win now team.  On top of that, Bridges is a nice fit as another wing player who can play off Jalen Brunson’s primacy on offense.  It’s not clear to me how Tom Thibodeau will keep the players happy with playing time.  If Julius Randle loses minutes, there could be issues in the locker room (I’m assuming OG Anunoby is a lock for 35 mpg).  If the minutes come from Josh Hart or Donte DiVincenzo, adding Bridges may give nominal improvement because those two played so well last year.  In short, Bridges will clearly help but New York has a lot to figure out in how to implement this deep roster.  I would’ve probably held off for the bigger fish but the deal is definitely defensible and could help.

The Clippers negotiate weirdly with Paul George

Paul George came into the summer demanding a four year contract from the Clipps, who were adamant that they would only do three years at the max amount.  The Clippers stated rationale for their offer was that they feared the roster penalties that are incurred when a team payroll exceeds the Second Apron (draft picks are frozen and trades and signings are severely limited).

What many have pointed out, however, is that the offer that Los Angeles gave PG would put the Clipps in the Second Apron for three years anyway and that the fourth year is so far down the line, it’s not clear that the Clippers would be in that territory by then anyway.  This is a compelling point.  Something else had to be going on because the Clipps could’ve reduced their potential Apron exposure merely by declining to re-sign James Harden (he got a reported two years and $70 million) and paying PG.  George appears to have been acutely aware of the this fact when he recently said that the Harden trade hurt the team

Another odd fact was that L.A. was willing to give Kawhi Leonard a three-year contract, despite his long history of injuries, but drew the line at the healthier (but older) PG.  Let’s look at how Kawhi and PG have done since joining the Clipps:

Kawhi: 229 games, 33.6 mpg, 24.8 ppg, .614 TS%, 6.5 rpg, 4.4 apg, 24.9 PER, .209 ws48, 6.8 BPM, 17.2 VORP

PG: 263 games, 33.3 mpg, 23.0 ppg, .590 TS%, 6.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, 19.8 PER, .127 ws48, 3.6 BPM, 12.5 VORP

Yes, Kawhi is better but he has been unable to complete any of the last three playoff series he’s played in due to knee injuries.  If you are going to reinvest in Kawhi, why not continue to pair him with PG?  I can’t figure out an apparent reason for this menu of decisions but it’s clear they didn’t want George back.  Perhaps, they think they will be just as good with a bunch of role players and a cheaper second forward like DeRozan.  Given a binary choice between PG or Harden and DeRozan, however, I think PG is the better option. 

James Harden’s gambit recalculated

Now that Harden’s contract future is finally settled, it’s fair to say that he did a poor job of negotiating/leveraging his situation.  Let’s go back and see how much his tantrums cost him…

If you recall, in the summer of 2021, the Nets offered Harden three years and $161million to re-sign.  He declined the offer, ostensibly because if he played out the 2021-22 season, he would be eligible for a four-year $227 million deal afterwards and the Nets were likely to give it to him.  Things got weird and Harden forced a trade to Philly and did not terminate his contract and, instead, played out two more years of the existing contract, at a much lower number.  The speculation was that the 76ers had promised that supermax deal, at some point, because Harden was seemingly leaving a ton of cash on the table.

Whatever was agreed upon between the parties, Harden freaked out last summer and called Darryl Morey a liar, without really specifying the lies in detail.  Harden was able to force his way to L.A. but now we can tabulate roughly how much money he gave up with his shenanigans.

Here’s how much Harden could’ve made with the Nets’ offers approximately:

On the 3-year Deal

2022-23: $53.7 million

2023-24:  $53.7 million

2024-25: $53.7 million

2025-26: Would be a free agent but we can conservatively estimate he’d make the $35 million he got

Total: $196.1 million

On the 4-year Deal

2022-23: $56.75 million

2023-24:  $56.75 million

2024-25: $56.75 million

2025-26: $56.75 million

Total: $227 million


2022-23: $44.3 million

2023-24: $33 million

2024-25: $35 million

2025-26: $35 million

Total: $137.3 million

The decision to go to Philly and futz around cost Harden about $60 to $90 million.  Perhaps Harden valued happiness more than money and he was willing to accept the cost to get out of Brooklyn.  It’s not like he’s not going to be fine financially (he’s made $340 million so far as a player, without even considering endorsements.  Still, he probably should’ve exercised a little impulse control and locked in the Nets offer and figured out the details later.